A World Without….

Last night I watched the BBC documentary “A World Without Downs Syndrome”. In case you missed it, it was presented by the mother of a Downs boy, about how pre-natal screening for Downs has now become less invasive and more accurate, and of those mothers who have the screening now in the UK, 9/10 choose to terminate. In Iceland apparently, the termination rate is 100%. No one with Downs or their families were ever consulted about the ethics of these screenings. The programme opened with footage of the presenter’s boy playing in the garden with his siblings, laughing and having fun. Whose right is it to decide that these people’s lives are not worth living? If I was a Downs person watching that programme I would think “WHAAAT! People hate my existence so much, they want to exterminate me and everyone like me? As if I am a disease. I am not, I just have different chromosomes.” I would feel sad and very angry. The scariest thing is, with the advancement of science, who could be next? We could screen out every slightest imperfection or deviation from the norm, and we’d all become clones of each other.
Imagine if my parents had been told before my birth: “Your daughter will be autistic. She will also be gay and gender non-conforming. Is that a risk you really want to take?” My parents, being enlightened, would hopefully have said yes. But then they could have been consumed with guilt when something didn’t turn out right for me, or viewed with pity and contempt by their friends: “They knew her condition, and yet they still chose to have her?” No. It’s not right. As people kept stating in the programme, the scans are only offering a choice. I am not opposed to choices and informed decisions. But greater choice cannot equal greater happiness. A quote from the programme, “If we have a society that’s unable to care for people, the problem is not the person. The problem is society.”

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“Break a leg!” Or, Say what you mean please!

imageI’ve just finished 4 extremely fun performances of “Show Stoppers” with the amateur musical theatre company I’m in. I sang harmonies and kind-of danced in a group of 30, I’ve been doing shows twice a year with them for a number of years now, and although I remain socially very much on the fringes of the group, and rarely sell many tickets to the shows, for a while when I’m on stage, in makeup and silly frocks, I temporarily forget myself and fling myself into the spirit of it.
On Friday I got a tweet saying “break a leg!” from someone who doesn’t know I’m an Aspie. Like a typical Aspie, I can sometimes be too literal. I know ┬áit’s theatre-speak for “good luck” but why? No one really seems to know, other than that to say the words “good luck” in the theatre is actually bad luck. Apparently.
My mum often reminds me of this story from my nursery school. My teacher gave me instructions to “paint Jeffrey” she meant of course to paint a picture of Jeffrey, a boy in the class, but I followed the instructions to the letter and poor Jeffrey was horrified when I went up and began to daub paint on his actual face! Fortunately since then I’ve learnt a few lessons and my literal mind hasn’t got me into too many other major blunders!
Back to the show – I wore a floor-length dress and high heels, and had to run up and down stairs between the stage and the dressing room without my specs on (I am extremely short sighted.), in a confined space with 30 others also rushing about in constricting costumes. On this occasion, thankfully, no actual legs or anything else were broken – but it’s always a distinct possibility. So next time you want to wish me luck, or anything else – Just say what you mean, OK?